Visiting my Aunt Tovah in Connecticut


Friday, 07Dec12 – Cookie parties!


The drive from Mass to Connecticut is really long, and really boring. It’s basically a highway where the scenery never changes, where the only way to tell what state you’re in is by who’s plates you see more often. And even that’s not a very reliable metric.

So, while I was driving down from Mass to visit my Aunt in Connecticut, I listened to boatloads of music, called pretty much everyone I hadn’t talk to in ages, and drank tons of coffee.

The coffee may not have been the best idea, but that’s besides the point.

I did finally finish the drive though, and met my Aunt at a very nice pizza place that she’d recommended – A small place called Julio’s that I missed on my first pass by.

Julio’s isn’t your standard-issue “order and leave” place, and I don’t think it delivered. Instead, they had “Artisan Pizza”, with “authentic ingredients” and many other fancy things. I wasn’t convinced until the delivered our pizza. (interestingly, the wrong pizza. They brought over the correct one a bit later) It was Excellent! A bit unique, and definitely not the Americanized pizza you’d expect from delivery (or Digorno), but I definitely enjoyed it, and made sure to save some for future breakfasting.

From Julio’s we headed out towards her hometown, where we made a quick pit-stop to drop off my car at her place. Then we headed right back out to a Cookie Party.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a party called a “Cookie Party”. My Aunt had told me a few tidbits about it, namely that the cookies were going to charity, but I was still a bit surprised when we arrived. There was an entire room dedicated to the decoration of cookies, and another room dedicated to storing said cookies for later. The goal, I learned, was that these cookies would be given out around town the next day as a “thank you” to all of the town officers – police, fire, mail, etc… A nice gesture, and something that I would never have even thought of in a city like Boston. Small towns in rural CT are basically amazing.

A whole flock of kids were hanging out around the table, with a few adults helping them reign in their more “unique visions”. One cookie was literally less than 20% cookie – the rest being heaps and heaps of frosting, which was used to mortar together a near-literal shell of chocolate chips and candies.

Aside from decorating cooking, I spent a bit of time chatting with and getting to know my Aunt’s friends – a rather impressive group of very cool people.

One of the women was a comic artist working with Wall-street law firms, and some of the stories that I heard from here strained the limits of how naive people can be… while still having completed Law school and completed the bar. Her husband was a Physics teacher who collected old electronics – including an old arc-lamp that would light up a room with a 300-amp lighting bolt.

As the party wound down, more and more people started heading out, and fewer and fewer cookies were available to be eaten. After a bit more chatting with the hosts, we decided that it was just the right time to head back to the house to catch a bit of sleep before heading out for adventures the next day.

Which, after a quick and simple ride home, we did.


Saturday, 08Dec12 – Carolers in Lennox


I woke up to the sound of my Aunt Tovah puttering around the downstairs. I don’t know how she does it, but my Aunt goes to bed after I do, and wakes up hours before I even start moving. And she’s not relaxing or being boring during this extra time either – she’s gardening, feeding the goats, and generally getting a ton of stuff done. I’m jealous.

But after I got myself moving and had a bite of breakfast from the leftovers that we had brought home last night, we started in on trying to decide what adventure to go on. We had a few options, and truth be told they all sounded pretty awesome.

In the end we went with a sort of compromise; we’d drive up to a small town in Mass called Lennox, where we’d wander around and listen to a caroling competition that was going on that weekend. On the way we’d stop in at a few different gardens whos owners my Aunt knew and explore a bit.

Thoughts and stories from the road:

  • On the way out, we stopped in at the “town center” of my Aunts place – a little general store with a post office and a gas station next door. There was a marathon going on, so we sat and watched for a bit. Our conclusion? To run a Marathon, you should wear bright orange shoes. The people with bright orange shoes were clearly winning.
  • Antique stores are dangerous. When they’re connected to a garden and full of awesome plants, they’re double-dangerous. And if, like myself, you just signed a lease on a new house? Well, just give up and run. I tallied it up. The price tag on the stack of things that I wanted to buy was easily into the three digits, and creeping dangerously close to four.
  • Coops are cool places to go shopping. They’ve got tons of neat food. A bit too heavy-handed on the “we’re nature lovers” side, but still pretty awesome.
  • CAROLING. Lennox Caroling. So cool.
    • A few of the storefronts in Lennox had been transformed into impromptu caroling stages – not a full stage, but they had all the little things that you’d need; cue stands, enough room for a dozen or so people to stand, etc…
    • We only got to see three groups, but those three were amazing!
    • First up was Delaware – a school group from… Delaware! They rocked out and were really fun and relaxed.
    • Next on the list was Lexington High. Unsurprisingly, they looked like insanely rich and entitled highschoolers… and they pulled it off really well. Full tuxes for the guys, and old Victorian dresses for the ladies lent the whole group a very “Christmas Carol” feel. And they could back it up – they were easily the best singers we heard.
    • Last we watched MCLA sing. They were nearly as technically impressive as Lexington in their range of songs, but they added the most-awesome aspect of doing the songs as mini-plays. One song was “Home is wherever I’m with you” about a couple who get stuck in an airport on Christmas, trying to get home. It was awesome.
  • After the last caroling group finished up we headed to a place called “Shots” for lunch. Not a traditional bar, but a coffee bar. Was rather fun, and they made a damn fine Quesadilla.
  • From lunch we puttered around Lennox a bit, then headed back to Great Barrington to check out their Christmas street faire. It was fun, but by that point dusk had completely fallen and we were starting to run out of steam for adventure. So we headed home.


Sunday, 09Dec12 – Cleaning the gardens


The life of a gardener is quite similar to that of a farmer, and my Aunt stays true to the “up at dawn” stereotype. By the time I woke up she had been puttering around the garden for an hour or two, and after our quick breakfast I laced up my shoes to join her.

We had a few small chores for the day, but the main goal was to clear out the debris from the back woods. While hurricane Sandy hadn’t really hit her house too badly, it had brought a ton of trees in the town down – including the trees all through the woods behind her house.

There weren’t many really big trees, but the small trees were legion – the woods were literally carpeted with small fallen branches and trunks. Over the course of a few hours we worked our way deeper into the woods, starting at the edge and slowly untangling the mess that the storm had left.

We even broke down into some dead fall that had been sitting for ages – one live tree had literally grown around a piece of dead fall, and we had to take a small saw to it in order to pull it out.

It took time, a few scrapes, and quite a bit of elbow grease, but we finally found ourselves standing at the edge of the pond, a nicely cleared forest behind us. To celebrate we headed back into the house for a light lunch; kale salad with a few leftover cross-buns that we’d picked up earlier in the weekend. Light lunches are sometimes good, and today it was exactly what I needed after javelining deadfall onto the compost pile.

But lunch also heralded my time to go. I already had most of my stuff packed up, so after a bit of relaxing and chatting I packed the car up, said my goodbyes and promises to return ASAP, and hit the not-so-dusty trail.


Leave a Reply